Winnipeg Jets Are Looking a Lot Like the Atlanta Thrashers

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Winnipeg Jets Are Looking a Lot Like the Atlanta Thrashers
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The drafting of Mark Scheifele in the first round surprised many NHL analysts.

Am I missing something about the Winnipeg Jets?

After all the fanfare about their move from Atlanta, Georgia and the great news that Winnipeg fans purchased well over 13,000 season tickets, nothing else first-rate in my mind seems to have happened.

With so much momentum and positive press, you would think that the Jets would aggressively go after a player or two that the team desperately needs to provide their loyal and patient fans a playoff team.

The former Thrashers who will make up the bulk of the Jets roster were in playoff contention for the first half of the season and then dropped off with injuries to key players and unsettling rumors of the team's demise.

The Winnipeg management chose not to retain seasoned general manager Rick Dudley or coach Craig Ramsay. Dudley in my mind would have been the perfect choice to lead the team.

He has played in the minor leagues, performed in both the WHA and the NHL and has actually managed teams as a coach and assistant GM and general manager.

Dudley, with marching orders from Atlanta Spirit LLC, jettisoned huge payrolls and attitudes and still put a competitive team on the ice that barely missed the playoffs.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Former Thrashers GM Rick Dudley takes his sizable talents to Toronto

The Jets chose a GM with minimal experience. Kevin Cheveldayoff was hired out of Chicago where he was the assistant GM under Stan Bowman. His resume is primarily AHL.

The team’s choice for bench leader was Claude Noel, whose only NHL head coaching experience came in 2009-10 as the interim head coach in Columbus for 24 games.

Ramsay was not informed that the team would have no use for his services until after the new staffing decisions were made.

This is not to say that Cheveldayoff will not ultimately get his arms around the position, but the question is how much learning curve can a modern NHL franchise handle before they morph into a duplicate of the now-dead Thrashers?

Remember Don Waddell's learning curve before he turned the reins over to the more NHL-savvy Rick Dudley? 

The team selected center Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick in the first round. All scouting reports identified Mark as an up-and-comer who could be a second-round steal.

For some reason the Jets chose not to select forward Sean Couturier or defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Both Couturier and Hamilton were in the top 10 in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.

In fact, Scheifele was not rated as an early first-round pick and definitely not in the top 10.

The Jets did acquire forward Eric Fehr from the salary-capped Capitals for a 2008 third-round pick and a fourth-round selection from next year.

Fehr could add some scoring punch and has the potential to light the lamp having scored 59 goals in his final year as a junior in Brandon, which is also in Manitoba.

The team also came to terms with captain Andrew Ladd, signing him to a $22 million, five-year deal, as well as adding several players that fans may be familiar with such as Rick Rypien and Derek Meech.

The Jets lost Anthony Stewart, who was a steal for Rick Dudley and had a solid year with the Thrashers.

Ramsay took an assistant coaching position in Florida and Dudley was scooped up by the Toronto Maple Leafs front office.

The one thing that is certain about the coming season is that the Winnipeg Jets are looking for their team to take off fast and make the postseason, not sputter on the runway.

We will soon see if the Jets resemble the successful WHA team or the Atlanta Thrashers

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